The problem with Cody Drameh Cardiff City move as Marcelo Bielsa views Leeds United differently

The real problem with Cody Drameh’s loan move from Leeds United to Cardiff City is timing.

By Graham Smyth
Saturday, 15th January 2022, 4:40 am

Had the 20-year-old packed his bags in the summer, when Leeds had fellow right-backs Luke Ayling, Stuart Dallas and Jamie Shackleton healthy and raring to go ahead of the Premier League season along with an almost fully fit squad, few eyebrows, outside the club at least, would have been raised.

There was talk of the club considering loan approaches for a number of their young players and while the general perception remains that players heading out temporarily might as well be signing their exit papers, Victor Orta made a special effort to tell the world Ian Poveda still had a future at Leeds when the winger went to Blackburn Rovers for the season.

“We hope Ian can get some game time and come back to us next season ready to fight,” said the director of football.

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Clubs both domestic and foreign were also keen on taking Drameh on loan, according to the player’s camp, yet unlike Poveda, who had been supplanted by the emerging Crysencio Summerville, there was no real interest from Leeds in allowing that to happen.

He was needed firstly to fill the right-back role for Mark Jackson’s 23s and to provide cover for Marcelo Bielsa’s first team.

Bielsa runs a small squad, supplemented with young players and Drameh was among a group close enough to the senior level to be included in the Argentine’s plans for the season.

Yet as we’ve discovered this week, all Drameh had to do was ask.

DIFFERENT VIEW - Marcelo Bielsa is besotted with his job at Leeds United and can imagine no better scenario than to be at Elland Road. Pic: Getty

“Drameh would prefer to experiment outside our team,” said Bielsa on Friday. “I consider that position valid and I don’t think it makes sense to oppose him. My position is that if he wants to leave I am not going to oppose it and I apply that to any player that wants to leave.”

What is now clear is that if Drameh had pushed the door hard enough in the summer, Bielsa would have opened it.

There was no need to hold a candle to Bielsa’s message to read between the lines in Friday's press conference, he just came out and said what he was thinking. No, this was not his idea. Yes, Drameh is needed right now in light of Leeds’ injury problems and by going out on loan is passing up what Bielsa considers a great opportunity.

Bielsa’s argument will find favour with a lot of fans right now, because it’s impossible to categorise Drameh as surplus to requirements. Even if Patrick Bamford, Rodrigo and Pascal Struijk all return this weekend, any injury to either Dallas or Ayling would leave Leeds dangerously light in a key area and in general.

That was why, not so long ago, the club were ruling out loan departures this month. Even at the weekend, when Italian transfer journalist Fabrizio Romano was breaking news of an agreement for Cardiff to take Drameh, the message coming from Elland Road was that no decision had been taken.

On Monday the message was that unless injuries cleared up or a new central midfield signing arrived that would free Dallas up from at least one of the positions he’s covering, Leeds were not sold on the idea of Drameh departing.

Something evidently changed and listening to Bielsa, that something may well have been his determination that any player wishing to leave should be facilitated in that wish. Even at a time when he’s needed.

Bielsa looks upon the situation at Leeds right now and a treatment room packed to the rafters and sees opportunity, Premier League opportunity no less, for players like Drameh.

It’s little surprise that the head coach could not imagine a better scenario than being at Leeds right now, though. A man who could be almost anywhere else in the world is besotted with his job and the club that hired him.

“For me, the time that I have spent here has been a time of growth,” he said.

“I have learned the culture of English football and that alone justifies any experience. On another side, I integrated myself into a club like this one. There is nobody who goes through here who doesn’t come out with a signal. It’s a city, a club with fans of support that leaves a mark on someone who has been a part of it. Also, competing in the first league in the world and all of what that signifies.”

Bielsa looks at Leeds and sees a project that is constructed entirely to his liking, from the investment in the academy, the facilities and the squad to the seriousness of the professionalism in the recruitment department, medical staff and groundsmen.

He sees Dallas playing through the pain barrier, out of position and personifying generosity, an attribute to which he attaches huge value. He sees fans offering unconditional love, even in the face of humiliating defeat. Bielsa looks at Leeds and sees everything he wants and needs.

Drameh in all likelihood looked at Leeds and saw not only Ayling and Dallas standing in his way but Shackleton too. Careers are short, players want to play and for some, Premier League 2 or reserve football just doesn’t cut it. Drameh looks at Cardiff City and sees game time, or a better chance of it than at Leeds, at present. That's not to say he sees his future elsewhere.

And it’s not necessarily the end for him at LS11. Bielsa offered no condemnation and was adamant he was not disappointed, and in any case the head coach’s presence at Leeds is never guaranteed before the end of the season due to his preference for one-year deals.

But if Drameh wasn’t previously aware of just how closely the ‘side before self’ mantra is attached to expectation of players at Leeds, he will be now. No matter which side of the fence you fall on this move, it cannot be said to be well-timed and that point has been made forcefully, not just by Bielsa.

There may well be a road back to Elland Road for Drameh, but a bridge or two will need mending along the way.